Planets - Sun

In the incessant agitation of daily life in which we are involved by the thousand superfluous wants of modern "civilization," one is prone to assume that existence is complete only when it reckons to the good an incalculable number of petty incidents, each more insignificant than the last. Why lose time in thinking or dreaming? We must live at fever heat, must agitate, and be infatuated for inanities, must create imaginary desires and torments.

The thoughtful mind, prone to contemplation and admiration of the beauties of Nature, is ill at ease in this perpetual vortex that swallows everything—satisfaction, in a life that one has not time to relish; love of the beautiful, that one views with indifference; it is a whirlpool that perpetually hides Truth from us, forgotten forever at the bottom of her well.

And why are our lives thus absorbed in merely material interests? To satisfy our pride and vanity! To make ourselves slaves to chimeras! If the Moon were inhabited, and if her denizens could see us plainly enough to note and analyze the details of human existence on the surface of our planet, it would be curious and perhaps a little humiliating for us, to see their statistics. What! we should say, is this the sum of our lives? Is it for this that we struggle, and suffer, and die? Truly it is futile to give ourselves such trouble.

And yet the remedy is simple, within the power of every one; but one does not think of it just because it is too easy, although it has the immense advantage of lifting us out of the miseries of this weary world toward the inexpressible happiness that must always awaken in us with the knowledge of the Truth: we need only open our eyes to see, and to look out. Only—one hardly ever thinks of it, and it is easier to let one's self be blinded by the illusion and false glamor of appearances.

Think what it would be to consecrate an hour each day to voluntary participation in the harmonious Choir of Nature, to raise one's eyes toward the Heavens, to share the lessons taught by the Pageant of the Universe! But, no: there is no time, no time for the intellectual life, no time to become attached to real interests, no time to pursue them.

Among the objects marshaled for us in the immense spectacle of Nature, nothing without exception has struck the admiration and attention of man as much as the Sun, the God of Light, the fecundating orb, without which our planet and its life would never have issued from nonentity, the visible image of the invisible god, as said Cicero, and the poets of antiquity. And yet how many beyond the circle of those likely to read these pages know that this Sun is a star in the Milky Way, and that every star is a sun? How many take any account of the reality and grandeur of the Universe? Inquire, and you will find that the number of people who have any notion, however rudimentary, of its construction, is singularly restricted. Humanity is content to vegetate, much after the fashion of a race of moles.

Henceforward, you will know that you are living in the rays of a star, which, from its proximity, we term a sun. To the inhabitants of other systems of worlds, our splendid Sun is only a more or less brilliant, luminous point, according as the spot from which it is observed is nearer or farther off. But to us its "terrestrial" importance renders it particularly precious; we forget all the sister stars on its account, and even the most ignorant hail it with enthusiasm without exactly knowing what its rôle in the universe may be, simply because they feel that they depend on it, and that without it life would become extinct on this globe. Yes, it is the beneficent rays of the Sun that shed upon our Earth the floods of light and heat to which Life owes its existence and its perpetual propagation.

Hail, vast Sun! a little star in Infinitude, but for us a colossal and portentous luminary. Hail, divine Benefactor! How should we not adore, when we owe him the glow of the warm and cheery days of summer, the gentle caresses by which his rays touch the undulating ears, and gild them with the touch? The Sun sustains our globe in Space, and keeps it within his rays by the mysteriously powerful and delicate cords of attraction. It is the Sun that we inhale from the embalmed corollas of the flowers that uplift their gracious heads toward his light, and reflect his splendors back to us. It is the Sun that sparkles in the foam of the merry wine; that charms our gaze in those first days of spring, when the home of the human race is adorned with all the charms of verdant and flowering youth. Everywhere we find the Sun; everywhere we recognize his work, extending from the infinitely great to the infinitely little. We bow to his might, and admire his power. When in the sad winter day he disappears behind the snowy eaves, we think his fiery globe will never rise to mitigate the short December days which are alleviated with his languid beams.

April restores him to superb majesty, and our hearts are filled with hope in the illumination of those beauteous, sunny hours. Our celestial journey carried us far indeed from our own Solar System. Guided by the penetrating eye of the telescope, we reached such distant creations that we lost sight of our cherished luminary. But we remember that he burns yonder, in the midst of the pale cosmic cloud we term the Milky Way. Let us approach him, now that we have visited the Isles of Light in the Celestial Ocean; let us traverse the vast plains strewn with the burning gold of the Suns of the Infinite.

We embark upon a ray of light, and glide rapidly to the portals of our Universe. Soon we perceive a tiny speck, scintillating feebly in the depths of Space, and recognize it as our own celestial quarters. This little star shines like the head of a gold pin, and increases in size as we advance toward it. We traverse a few more trillion miles in our rapid course, and it shines out like a fine star of the first magnitude. It grows larger and larger. Soon we divine that it is our humble Earth that is shining before us, and gladly alight upon her. In future we shall not quit our own province of the Celestial Kingdom, but will enter into[Pg 93] relations with this solar family, which interests us the more in that it affects us so closely.

The Sun, which is manifested to us as a fine white disk at noon, while it is fiery red in the evening, at its setting, is an immense globe, whose colossal dimensions[Pg 94] surpass those of our terrestrial atom beyond all conceivable proportion.

In diameter, it is, in effect, 1081⁄2 times as large as the Earth; that is to say, if our planet be represented by a globe 1 meter in diameter, the Sun would figure as a sphere 1081⁄2 meters across.

If our world were set down upon the Sun, with all its magnificence, all its wealth, its mountains, its seas, its monuments, and its inhabitants, it would only be an imperceptible speck. It would occupy less space in the central orb than one grain in a grenade. If the Earth were placed in the center of the Sun, with the Moon still revolving round it at her proper distance of 384,000 kilometers (238,500 miles), only half the solar surface would be covered.

In volume the Sun is 1,280,000 times vaster than our abode, and 324,000 times heavier in mass. That the giant only appears to us as a small though very brilliant disk, is solely on account of its distance. Its apparent dimensions by no means reveal its majestic proportions to us.

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